A SAFETY warning has been issued after a dog suffered horrific injuries and had to be put down following a shoreline attack by a large seal near Newburgh.
Wildfowler Matthew Will faced the heartbreaking decision when his gundog was savaged by what is believed to be a bull seal near the mouth of the Tarty Burn last Friday evening.
The incident is the latest in a series involving seals and dogs and fears have been voiced that a child could be next.
It prompted an immediate alert from fishery managers to dog owners and other users to be wary of the danger.
Mr Will, 21, a river watcher and part-time gillie on the Ythan, had been out shooting with three-year-old Fly when the black labrador jumped into the water to retrieve a duck.
It is understood the huge seal then attacked, leaving the gundog with multiple wounds. Mr Will, from Peterhead, described how there was a “sudden and terrific thrashing and howling in the water”.
He told fishery colleagues the seal was enormous and was pulling the dog about and dragging it under the water. He then shone his torch which apparently scared off the mammal.
Mr Will waded in to retrieve his pet to discover the animal with horrific injuries and in agony. He took the distressing decision to shoot the dog to end its suffering.
Ythan fishery manager and Udny Trust factor Audrey Forbes-Clarke said it was a tragic incident which highlighted the threat from seals in the water.
She told the Times: “We have windsurfers and kids groups using the area so it’s a major concern. Sadly an incident like this has been waiting to happen and we all feel for Matt over this. But a dog is replaceable, a child is not.”
Mrs Forbes-Clarke said signs warning that seals may attack dogs in the water had been put up in the summer but were torn down within days.
She added: “At the end of May this year we counted around 1,300 seals in the estuary which really is an explosion from last year’s numbers.
“People have to realise the seals are wild and are particularly aggressive at the moment as it is coming into the breeding season.”
Newburgh beach and the estuary are popular with dog walkers who regard the area as safe. But there have been a number of reported attacks by seals on dogs.
Head gillie George Moodie said his fear was that a child paddling or swimming could be at risk from a seal attack.
He added: “It’s definitely a problem. The seals are naturally inquisitive and these days have no fear at all. My concern is that it could be a child in the water who is attacked.”
During the local fishing season from May-August fishery managers use a sonic sound feed from a boat to keep the seals confined to a stretch of the estuary. They are looking at ways of expanding this.